25-REAL ESTATE SCAM

KNOW HOW WE GOT HERE, AND KNOW INNER PEACE

PART III – How the City became the head office of international finance

In 1789, upon hearing that Benjamin was feeling poorly, Mayer decided to go to America with his three teenage sons, Amschel, Salomon and Nathan. The last time he had travelled to the new world was in 1785, following Haym’s death. On this trip, he wanted the boys to get a feeling for this wondrous new country, but above all, he wanted the boys to meet Benjamin Franklin. Unfortunately, Benjamin being old and in poor health, they arrived too late.

But business went on. Mayer met with Moses Hayes in Boston, Ephraim Hart in New York and the Gratz Brothers in Philadelphia. Robert Morris who had done such a superb job as head of the Bank of North America and Superintendent of Finance had passed on the torch to his young protégé, Alexander Hamilton, who was now Secretary of the Treasury. Alexander was a true prodigy and was handling the young nation’s finances brilliantly. When Mayer met with Robert Morris, he told him how satisfied he was with their work and that he was henceforth free to use his own good judgment in the running of the country’s finance. Of course, Robert was expected to consult with Alexander, Moses, Ephraim and the Gratz Brothers if urgent matters came up, and directly with Mayer in Frankfurt if he deemed it necessary.

He then met with Washington in his magnificent renovated Mount Vernon estate and congratulated him on his election victory. He assured him that since trade and commerce was developing at breakneck speed, he and his political supporters would continue receiving unlimited funding in order to carry out their mandates as they saw fit.

Next, he met with Alexander Hamilton and congratulated him on getting George Washington elected. He also told him how impressed he was with the work he and Robert Morris were doing. He then brought up the subject of the Bank of North America charter that was expiring in 1791. Hamilton was way ahead of him on that one, for a first draft of the 1st Bank of the United States of America charter that was to run for another twenty years was already being circulated and was meeting with very little opposition. Mayer was indeed impressed by this young man.

The states were developing by leaps and bounds, Mayer’s people were rich and getting richer, and his bank’s charter was about to be renewed for another twenty years. There was absolutely nothing for Mayer to worry about. He always treated his collaborators as equals, and always made sure they had enough money to reach any goal or satisfy any whim without their having to ask Mayer. People don’t necessarily like being on a string, but severing a link to such bounty is unthinkable, especially when it’s so easy to forget the string exists. One thing was certain, America and his bank could look forward to twenty years of peace and prosperity.

The only matter that needed immediate attention was getting permanent residences for the President and Congress. Mayer agreed that having the federal capital at the head of the Potomac River was the best choice since the area was slightly in the southern portion of the new nation, and strategically well-protected. Having an executive building for the President and his staff separate from that of the people’s representatives was deemed important as well. However, although the constitution, drafted by Hamilton, Madison, and Jefferson who had just come back from Paris, had been submitted the year before, some states were still holding back. Nonetheless, Alexander was certain the US Constitution and the Compromise of 1790 would be accepted, and would lead the way in the creation of a strong federal state.

Before setting sail for the trip home, Mayer and his boys decided it would be a good idea to go by way of Paris, in order to see what was happening in France. Mayer was anxious to know how much gold bullion his real estate operations were generating. When they arrived in Amsterdam, they took a Thurn and Taxis mail coach in order to avoid problems with the French authorities. Mayer had written ahead to David Schiff, Moses Montefiore, Gabriel Julien Ouvrard, and the Goldsmid Bros. convening them to a meeting in Paris.

The meeting took place in Gabriel’s mansion in Paris, and since it wasn’t a good idea to display wealth at that time, they kept the meeting low key which suited everybody. Mayer and the boys listened with the greatest attention as they were briefed on the state of the real estate sales and on the latest developments of the ongoing revolution.

The counterfeit assignats printed by Johannot were being circulated undetected, and Ouvrard’s agents, Huguenots working out of the lodges of the Grand Orient of France, were having no trouble buying the prodigious properties as they were put up on the auction block. Ouvrard and his agents flipped the properties to anxiously waiting French buyers with the help of Cambacérès’ law firm that was always on hand to do the necessary legal work. The word had gotten around that gold could be used to buy the properties at a reduced price, and the wealthy buyers were queuing up. For instance, if a buyer personally purchased confiscated Church property at auction, he had to use assignats which he had to buy at face value from the government. By purchasing a property worth a 100 million pounds at auction, he needed to buy 100 million pounds’ worth of assignats at face value. But if he bought the same property from Ouvrard, he would only need to have 50 million pounds in gold.

As the sales were completed, Ouvrard had the gold transported to Paris by Thurn and Taxis. The gold was then shipped down the Seine to Le Havre where a waiting Baring ship from the East India Company took it to London where it was deposited in the Goldsmid Bros. vaults in the City. Montefiore in London made sure everything went smoothly at that end. So far, there had been no hitches and the elite group assembled in Paris didn’t foresee any. Mayer’s boys were in admiration of their father who had set up such a marvelous scam where no one was harmed that hadn’t been already.

Mayer and the three boys left Paris in good spirits, except for Nathan who was complaining about not being allowed to go and witness the demolition of the Bastille prison. In order to humor Nathan, Mayer talked about plans for the family as it pertained to London. Soon, he would need to have one of his sons take charge of family affairs in the City. It was a foregone conclusion that Amschel, the eldest son, would be the future head of the family and remain in charge in Frankfurt, and that Salomon was to go to Vienna to supervise the massive banking operations in the loosely united Holy German Empire. As for London, since Nathan spoke English best, he would be sent to the City when he reached 21. That definitely took Nathan’s mind off the Bastille.

When Mayer got back to Frankfurt, the first thing he did was sit down with his wife Gutle and acquaint her with the latest American and French developments. All was going as planned in America, and there wasn’t much to add to what she already knew. Though Benjamin’s passing had been deeply felt by Mayer, business carried on as usual. The 1st Bank of the USA was about to receive a 20-year charter, and the buildings housing the President and Congress were to be built at the head of the Potomac River. With Morris and Hamilton at the helm, things were going fabulously well.

In France, however, it was another matter. The year before, in 1789, the Illuminati had financed a meeting of provincial representatives who had been either named or elected in order to draw up lists of grievances in view of bringing them to the King’s attention. When they congregated in Versailles, the clergy and nobility refused to sit in the same room with them, and the King cancelled the meeting. Mirabeau, a great orator, then convinced the people’s representatives to hold a meeting of their own. Naturally, when they declared their body to be the official government of France, the King sent in the National Guard to disband them. Mirabeau then seized the moment, stood up to the sergeants, and the assembly refused to disperse.

Planned famines continued to undermine major French cities, and the Illuminati were using the Palais Royal, the Paris residence of the King’s cousin, the Grand Master of the Orient of France, Louis Philippe d’Orléans, as their center of operations. The courtyard was a meeting place for all the hotheads, lowlifes and unsavory characters attracted by the firebrand speeches. In July of that year, a throng assembled in the courtyard, fired up by the speeches, went and stormed the Bastille, the much hated royal prison. The prison governor was decapitated and his head was paraded through the streets of Paris.

A few weeks later a procession of very odd masculine ladies accompanied by Lafayette’s National Guard went to fetch the royal family in Versailles. Oddly, the royals were brought back to Paris without any intervention on the part of Lafayette and his guard. The royals were put under house arrest, and the newly formed National Constituent Assembly had followed them to Les Tuileries in order to be at the center of power. Because the National Assembly had no source of revenue, its members immediately voted to confiscate and sell church property as planned. They voted to have assignats printed and sold for hard currency, and only those with assignats were to be allowed to buy the confiscated Church property put up at auction throughout France.

When the auctions got going Ouvrard’s agents were already in place and Johannot’s high quality counterfeit bills were being circulated. A number of prestigious properties had already been bought. Ouvrard’s agents having unlimited amounts of assignats had no problem outbidding the French who were quite willing to wait and buy the properties for gold at a discounted price. Ouvrard was directed to ship the gold bullion to the Goldsmid Bros. in the City, in London. Francis Baring, the Chairman of the East India Company in Amsterdam, was charged with conveying the bullion to the Goldsmids, and always had a ship at the ready in Le Havre. The Goldmids were soon the most powerful bankers in England.

Gutle was greatly troubled by the counterfeiting operations, but was happy to hear that the bullion was being stockpiled in the City, as planned by Mayer. She was relieved that nobody knew what Mayer was really worth, for most people didn’t even know he existed. Some knew he was rich, but since he lived in a ghetto, they didn’t know what to make of it. It would have been a far reach for anybody to even think that Mayer controlled the monetary system of the United States of America. In time, the American politicians would question the bank’s origins and wonder who the owners were, but Mayer would maintain total anonymity. People didn’t know that what was best for the bankers was also what was best for the people, and they tended to envy and even revile the bankers. But since there was not much they could do if they didn’t know where to point the finger, that’s the way it would continue to be. As long as everybody was kept guessing concerning the working of the monetary system, and as long as Mayer did what was best for the country, the people would eventually and grudgingly accept the fact that it was the only way democracy could work without ever really understanding what democracy was.

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24-MANIFEST DESTINY

KNOW HOW WE GOT HERE, AND KNOW INNER PEACE

Mayer went to meet with Benjamin who had just arrived in Philadelphia. Though Mayer was much younger, they had become the best of friends, and they greeted each other enthusiastically. They had enjoyed the time spent together before Benjamin left for France, and again when they had met in Paris. They couldn’t wait to have a tête-à-tête which they arranged to have the day after the official welcoming ceremonies that were planned for Benjamin.

Benjamin’s German hadn’t improved much, but Mayer had since picked up an English word here and there, and they managed to communicate quite well. Mayer congratulated Benjamin on his masterful use of Morris Notes sent to him in Paris in order to pay for the French arms supplied by Vergennes and sent to Schiff in Rotterdam. Thanks to him, David had channelled vast quantities of surplus French arms to the Colonies. In other words, Mayer wanted to let Franklin know that without him, the victory at Yorktown, the founding of the Bank of North America and the about-to-be-signed Constitution would have been impossible.

Benjamin thanked him for his kind words, but he was more interested in knowing how Robert Morris had used the French gold to capitalize the Bank of North America. So, Mayer started by saying that the French gold was intact and had been used to back up the Morris notes. Morris had become the Bank of North America’s main shareholder, and the bank was on the verge of obtaining a 20-year charter from Congress. Mayer admitted that he now controlled America’s monetary system and that it was making him very rich, but was quick to add that past a certain point being rich is of no consequence. The only thing that mattered was accumulating more gold bullion in order to create more credit and strengthen the burgeoning economy. There were, however, two main concerns. Getting more gold out of the ground was limited by current technology, and it was hard to maintain anonymity while controlling the monetary system.

The subject then turned to France. Benjamin had much to say, and Mayer was all ears. Benjamin felt that France was a kettle ready to boil over. Masonic Lodges were mushrooming throughout France since the Congress of Wilhelmsbad, because members no longer had to swear on the Catholic bible in order to become freemasons. The change had opened the door to the Huguenots who were infiltrating France from England, Holland and Germany. Somebody was pushing for change in France, and that initiative seemed to be originating in the City, in London. Benjamin was quite sure the English bankers were out to destroy the Ancien Regime of France. People like Mirabeau and many others were already talking about France having a Constitutional Monarchy like that of England.

It seemed that Versailles was creating a problem. The King was completely isolated and surrounded by his aristocratic cronies in a lush setting while a starving Paris grumbled. Benjamin had personally felt this unrest in Paris in spite of the fact that Versailles was now occupied by Louis XVI and his young wife, a rather congenial couple.

Mayer then gave Benjamin some bad news concerning the Treaty of Alliance of 1778 that had unofficially made France America’s major trading partner. Since then, America’s economy had grown tremendously and now needed a stronger trading partner. Because of turmoil in France, Mayer thought that a formal trade agreement with England had to supersede the treaty that Benjamin had ratified in Paris in 1778. He knew that the French and the American citizenry would be very upset with what they would deem treacherous, which, in fact, it was. Nonetheless, Mayer wondered if Benjamin could accept to work with him if such a trade agreement were reached. Mayer saw it as an urgent matter, and a logical thing to do in that America was mainly English-speaking and Protestant just like England, notwithstanding their historical, economic and cultural ties.

Benjamin was truly taken aback by this suggestion and remained quiet for the longest time. His natural inclination was to mistrust any man who dealt in betrayal. But because he knew Mayer was right in that they had no control over what was happening in France, and because he truly admired this man, he dismissed his gut reaction. He knew that Mayer felt the same way he did about France, and that he felt very bad about not honoring the Treaty of Alliance, even though it hadn’t been an official trade agreement. Reluctantly, he agreed with Mayer. Mayer added that he would make it up to France by always giving it top consideration in all future economic and cultural matters and would do everything in his power to give France a Constitutional Monarchy like that of England.

In the meantime, if Congress was to be receptive to the idea, Mayer told Benjamin his help was sorely needed. Although he was thinking of retirement, he urged him to accept the seat he was being offered in the Senate. With him sitting in the Senate, and Alexander Hamilton controlling finances under Morris’ leadership, they could easily steer the ship. It was the only way to successfully address the pressing matters facing the 13 Colonies. Getting the constitution signed, a President elected, permanent residences built for both the President and Congress, and a trade agreement signed with England would require all their attention.

So far, Hamilton had written newspaper articles that had led to the ratification of the Declaration of Independence by New York, and he was now in the process of drafting the constitution with Madison. With regards to the ceded lands by England, since the individual Colonies had claims on them, Mayer had asked Robert Morris to forgive their war debts on condition that they sign over their rights to Congress, and it seemed to be working. There wasn’t much doubt that all would accept, and in so doing, they would be accepting the authority of Congress. That in turn would open the door to their accepting a residence for both the President and Congress up the Potomac River, and thus, a federal state.

Because Mayer thought things were going well and in the right direction, he added that it was probably now time to start thinking about the territorial boundaries of this great nation in the making. After the signing of the Paris Treaty in 1763, when the French had repatriated their administration and military leaving America to the English, and the signing of the Paris Treaty of 1783, when the English had left the 13 Colonies to the Americans, it was now time to start thinking of expansion westward.

Mayer was also thinking of a way to repay France for coming to America’s aid in 1778. America would offer to buy its vast land possessions that stretched from New Orleans to Hudson Bay and to the west right up to and including the great prairies for a substantial amount of money. The windfall would also compensate in part France for its loss regarding the upcoming trade agreement with England. Mayer would find a way to arrange a mindboggling deal that both France and Congress would be only too happy to agree to. Then, a huge buffer zone north of the 49th parallel could be created, and the USA would be free to expand westward in an orderly fashion along that parallel. Once the West was opened, the Spanish-Mexican problem to the south would be addressed. Congress would first help Mexico gain its independence from Spain, and down the road, offer to purchase the Mexican lands north of the Rio Grande. The Rio Grande would then become the southern boundary line. The American states west of the Mississippi would be incorporated as warranted by population growth, and the USA would become a coast-to-coast nation, with Canada to the north and Mexico to the south. Unlike Europe, the USA would be a coast-to-coast homogeneous country, with a mainly white, English-speaking, Protestant population. It was the ‘manifest destiny’ of the USA to become the greatest country the world had ever seen.

The Jew and the goy looked at each other in total agreement, and embraced. In that instant, they took full measure of the situation, and the long silence that followed, steeped in humility and mutual respect, spoke volumes about what they had accomplished.

23-FEDERALIST PAPERS

KNOW HOW WE GOT HERE, AND KNOW INNER PEACE

In 1785, Benjamin returned home to Philadelphia after a very successful nine years spent in France. Mayer decided it was a good time to go to America. He would spend some time with Haym Salomon, Robert Morris, Ephraim Hart and the Gratz Bros and consult with Benjamin as well. He had arranged to be in America around August, but upon hearing of Haym’s passing, he had left immediately and had arrived in New York in late June. Haym and Ephraim had recently gotten the Bank of New York, a branch of the Bank of North America, up and running, and it was proving to be a huge success. Robert Morris who had just been replaced by Alexander Hamilton as Superintendent of Finance was by Ephraim’s side, and that had been very reassuring for the business community of New York.

Hart was at dockside to welcome him when he arrived, and the first thing Mayer wanted to see was the building that housed the Bank of New York. The Bank of Philadelphia on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia had become the Bank of North America in 1782, but the Bank of New York built by Haym on St. George Street in NY was the new seat of power. When Mayer saw the building, he was very proud indeed, but his thoughts quickly turned to Haym. He was very grateful for all the work he had done, and he asked to be driven to Haym’s residence in order to pay his respects to his wife. He would visit the bank later.

Haym was thought to be a very wealthy man, for he and Morris had officially organized and financed the meeting of the politicians in Philadelphia in 1774, and had supplied military equipment to all the militias from the very beginning. Nobody knew Haym had been working for Mayer, and being so busy with what he was doing, Haym had put very little money aside for himself and his family. So, Mayer wanted to tell his wife that she didn’t have to worry about the welfare of her family, and that Ephraim Hart would make sure that the family’s future was secure.

After spending the night at Ephraim’s mansion, the two men met with Robert Morris the next morning in the executive offices of the bank. The mood was one of friendship and celebration. These men, not forgetting Haym of course, had accomplished a great deal in a very short time, and Mayer was justly proud of their achievements. With the Bank of New York as the new seat of power, with branches already built in Philadelphia and Boston and others being built in the other capitals of the 13 Colonies, Mayer’s federal bank was here to stay. The merchants and the politicians had no choice but to acknowledge that this financial institution was formidable, and no one was inclined to regret the Continental Dollar. Unofficially, there was only one currency in the 13 Colonies, the US dollar, and it was the currency that would continue to be used in the existing branches of the Bank of North America. It would become the official currency of the nation when the Constitution was ratified.

Many in Congress reviled the unknown bankers that were getting fabulously rich running the Bank of North America, and Morris, who had been the Superintendent of Finance as well as the bank’s main shareholder, had quietly resigned. Although the central bank was stable, inspired confidence, and was helping the economies of the 13 Colonies grow at breakneck speed, and although it was becoming, like the Bank of England, an indispensable financial institution, it was best not to foment envy. So, Mayer, in wanting to keep feelings under control in Congress, and wanting to maintain a low financial profile, had asked Morris to resign from the post of Superintendent of Finance the year before. He had been replaced by three non-descript commissioners of finance.

When faced with the need to find a new Superintendent of Finance, Mayer’s attention turned to young Alexander Hamilton who seemed to be the right man for the job. The young prodigy from New York, who had recommended Robert Morris for the post of Superintendent of Finance in the first place, was a protégé of both George Washington and Robert Morris, and if put forward, his nomination would be assured. Morris had painted a very favorable picture of the young Hamilton saying how vital he had been in the creation of the B of NY, and Mayer was anxious to actually meet him.

Alexander Hamilton, a boy of questionable lineage had come to New York by way of the Caribbean islands. Thanks to a clergyman who recognized his talent, he came to New York and studied at King’s College. He was a brilliant student and a courageous one. In August 1775 he formed a militia called the Hearts of Oak which later participated in a successful raid against the British. He had seized the cannons stored in the Battery at the tip of Manhattan in spite of being under fire from HMS Asia. Alexander was naturally made Captain in the Continental Army. He was rapidly promoted to the rank of Lt. Colonel in George Washington’s ‘family’ of aide-de-camps. He became disgruntled when he lost his most favored position to the young Marquis de Lafayette when the latter arrived from France in 1777, and he resigned his commission. Early on, Morris had taken him under his wing and had sent him back to King’s College to study law. In 1779, he introduced him to Elizabeth Schuyler, the daughter of a very wealthy merchant whom Alexander married in 1780. In 1781, Alexander fought at Yorktown, after apparently making his peace with Washington. Nonetheless, after Yorktown, he went back to his wife in Albany where he got special permission to pass the bar exam before the required time of internship. He was elected to Congress and was appointed receiver of taxes for NY in 1782.

In 1783, Hamilton came to practice law in NYC where he distinguished himself by defending the rights of loyalists who were returning to NYC. Morris liked his ideas concerning central banking and central government, and he had hired his law firm to draft the incorporation documents for the Bank of New York. Hamilton had used the Bank of England as a working model, as per Mayer’s instructions, and he had done a superb job.

They adjourned for lunch with the intention of inviting Alexander Hamilton to the afternoon session. After lunch, when Mayer was introduced to Hamilton, he congratulated him on his drafting of the bank’s constitution. However, Mayer didn’t think it was necessary to say more for now, though he was definitely impressed by the young man. Mayer turned the discussion to another matter that was on all their minds, the Constitution of the United States of America. They all knew they had to act fast, especially when the two biggest Colonies, Virginia and New York, were both reticent to the idea of a strong central government. So, Mayer told then that there was no time to lose if they were to succeed in unifying the 13 States.

An initial constitution in its most simplistic form had to be drafted as soon as possible, one that could easily be signed by all. Since the agricultural states in the south disagreed with many of the ideas held by the merchants in the north, and since many in both camps were anti-federalists, it was imperative to have the document written by a southerner who believed in a strong central government in collaboration with someone from the north who had the same convictions. Thomas Jefferson from Virginia had been the obvious choice, but he was presently in France, so James Madison, his closest associate, who had drafted Virginia’s Constitution, was the next best choice. When Mayer asked if anyone knew of someone from NY who would be prepared to work with Madison and had the necessary skills to sell the newly drafted constitution to the New York Congress, all eyes turned to young Alexander.

Hamilton felt he had to say something and simply said he would be honored to help out in whatever way he could. He had met James Madison and he thought highly of him. He, like the others, knew that if New York and Virginia, both anti-federalist states, were made to take the lead and sign the Constitution, then it would be easy to get the other Colonies to come on board. They all agreed that Hamilton seemed to be the right man for the job, but he was from NY, and they all knew that it would be better if it was written by Madison who was from the south. Hamilton simply added that he would be willing to cooperate wholeheartedly with Madison who was perfectly qualified to draft the official document, and that he would welcome Madison’s input in helping him promote it via the local newspapers. He was convinced they would work well together, for they both believed in a strong federal state.

Mayer was quite happy with that answer and told him so, but not being inclined to squander praise, he immediately brought up the other pressing matter, that of the assumption of war debts. Mayer told them he was going to Philadelphia to meet with Benjamin Franklin who had arrived from France. Benjamin was getting on in years and was thinking of retiring, and Mayer would try to convince the ‘Father of Independence’ to accept a seat in the Senate, and use his influence while working with Morris. The two men would spread the word that war debts incurred by the individual Colonies would be forgiven if they surrendered their rights to Congress regarding the lands east of the Mississippi, the lands that had been ceded by England in the recently signed Paris Peace Treaty. All the federalists were bound to welcome such an initiative, and by going along with it, the 13 States would be officially recognizing the authority of Congress and the existence of the Bank of North America. The desired political union would be achieved, and the bank would become entrenched as a financial institution. Best of all, the compromise would in no way affect the bottom line of the Bank of North America. The war debt incurred by the Colonies would simply be transferred and become a federal debt. The amount owed Mayer’s bank, the Bank of North America, would remain unchanged, only the name of the debtor would change.

When he asked Morris what progress was being made regarding the matter, he answered using quite colourful language. The whole universe tended to take the path of least resistance, like water flowing downhill, and people were part of that universe. By facilitating the solution of a problem with a financial enticement, all the states were bound to welcome the initiative, it was just a matter of time. They were all amused by his rhetoric, for they all knew he was right

Mayer told him not to take anything for granted and to keep pushing as hard as he could. He was to spread the pork freely, and to wine and dine everyone who needed to be swayed. Results were all that mattered. Then he turned to Hart and asked him how the Bank of New York was doing. Ephraim answered that confidence in the bank was growing on a daily basis, and that the bullion accumulating in the bank’s vaults was having a snowball effect.

Mayer had already inspected the bank’s vault, so the news didn’t take him by surprise. He then turned his attention to another pressing political matter. They all knew that George Washington would be acclaimed President when the Constitution was signed, but the two major obstacles, that of getting the Constitution drafted and signed, and finding a place to house the President and Congress were pressing matters. He wanted to know what the politicians were saying, and turned to Morris once again. Morris said that as far as the Constitution was concerned, there was no consensus. With regards to the Constitution, he suggested that it was indeed a good idea to have James Madison and his staff in Virginia draft the Constitution in consultation with Alexander Hamilton and his staff in New York. As for a President, there seemed to be no real opposition to the candidacy of George Washington. The residence of the President and the Government, however, was another matter. Morris went on to say that the only way to satisfy the two big States, Virginia and New York, was to locate the houses of government in a neutral central place like at the head of the Potomac River. This neutral territory would become an independent center of power very much like the City in London.

Mayer then turned to Hamilton to ask him if he had further suggestions with regards to the drafting of the Constitution. Alexander reiterated that he was more than willing to work with Madison, for he was the most qualified, having already drafted the Constitution of Virginia. As far as he was concerned, the only thing that was absolutely imperative was to have a tripartite system, one where the three branches of power, the legislative, the executive and the judiciary were separate. He and his staff could start promoting the ideas of federalism by publishing weekly instalments in all the local papers, something that could be called the Federalist Papers. He was ready to start as soon as Mayer gave his OK, and he added one more thing. If the Constitution was to be kept simple in order for everyone to sign it at the earliest possible time, as suggested by Mayer, it was imperative to keep the Bill of Rights out of it. They would have to make that very clear, and promise the politicians that as many amendments as necessary could be added after the signing. That would keep the debate wide open while making it possible for everyone to sign.

Mayer agreed, of course. For now, selling the idea of forgiving the war debts of the major colonies, and offering generous compensations to those with little war debt in exchange for giving up their land claims, was urgent. Hart was to continue coordinating the bank’s activities, those of Philadelphia, Boston and New York as well as the others soon to be created. Madison and Hamilton were to have all the financing needed to have the constitution drafted in the shortest delays. The last item that Mayer wanted to bring up was the trade issue with Britain.

According to Ephraim, there was a great cry to re-open trade with England. The merchants had always traded with England, and although the States had signed an Alliance Treaty with France in 1778, trading with that country was proving to be very unsatisfactory. Something had to be done to stimulate transatlantic trade. Mayer said he would decide what to do after meeting with Franklin.

20-WORKING FOR INDEPENDENCE

KNOW HOW WE GOT HERE, AND KNOW INNER PEACE

Franklin left Philadelphia on the 26th of October, accompanied by his son, William Temple Franklin, and his grandson Benjamin Franklin Bache, son of Sarah. Sarah was the daughter he had with Deborah Read, his common-law wife.

They sailed on board the Continental sloop-of-war Reprisal which carried sixteen guns. He had to be protected, for if Franklin had been captured by the English on the high seas he would have been hanged for treason. The 70-year-old American, widely referred to by the English as ‘chief of the rebels’ or as ‘General Franklin’, was deemed dangerous. The British Ambassador to France expressed his regrets that some English frigate had not met and dispensed with him on the high seas. However, he landed at Auray on the Loire River and made his way to Nantes with great difficulty. From there, the 250-mile trip into Paris was like a triumphal procession. He was wined and dined by scientific and literary notables on the way, and his entry into Paris caused a sensation.

Franklin’s fame was due not only to his scientific reputation, but also to the French rage for what philosopher Rousseau called ‘the natural man’. There was a vogue for things American in France at this time. Many French intellectuals looked to America as a new world, a fresh world, a world where human nature was closer to its natural origins. And Franklin, of course, was more than pleased to cater to French expectations. When he arrived in Paris, he was wearing a little fur cap to keep his bald head warm. To the French, the hat was the embodiment of the rugged American frontiersman and proof that Franklin was a true ‘natural man’. Even though no one knew what exactly he was doing in France, the French welcomed him with open arms, and he became a pop culture icon. Images of Franklin, wearing a fur cap instead of a wig, were depicted in paintings, engravings, medallions, rings, and snuffboxes.

After the Battle of Saratoga and the humiliating defeat of the British army commanded by General Burgoyne, Franklin, in spite of his struggling with the French language, used his charm, wit, and knowledge, to parlay this English defeat at the hands of American militias into a gigantic diplomatic victory. The French foreign minister, Count of Vergennes, wasted no time in officially acknowledging that the United States was an independent country. A formal treaty with France followed in 1778.

When he first arrived in Paris, Benjamin settled in Passy, a very affluent part of the city. It was necessary to seek out the French elite in order to achieve his goal. He had no direct access to the King, but he could influence those around him in order to get financial and military aid for America. He decided to do this in two ways. He would seek out the most select salon he could find, and since he was a freemason, he would frequent a local lodge, where the great men of the day, the enlightened ones, were members.

Upon his arrival he was introduced to the salon of Mme Helvetius in Auteuil. At the relatively late age of 29, Mme Helvetius had married the French philosopher and poet, Claude Adrien Helvétius, who had amassed a fortune as a Farmers General tax collector. The couple settled in the Paris suburb of Auteuil, and Minette, as she was called, opened a salon where she entertained some of the greatest figures of the Age of Enlightenment. Among them were Suzanne Necker, Diderot, Duclos, André Chénier, Condorcet, l’Abbé Sieyès, Buffon, Condillac, d’Alembert, Lavoisier, and such politicians as Malesherbes, Talleyrand, Madame Roland, Mirabeau, just to name a few.

Twenty years into her marriage, her husband died, and in 1776, she and Jérôme de Lalande opened the ‘Loge des Neuf Sœurs’, a masonic lodge that was affiliated to the Grand Orient of France. Freemasonry was incontestably one of the factors of the great changes that were taking place in the west. It was where new ideas were expressed, and from where men influenced the course of events. Of course, Benjamin frequented that French lodge from the very start. Two years later, in 1778, he was initiated as a member, and, in 1779, he was made Worshipful Master. A few weeks before his death, Voltaire was initiated as a member, and Benjamin was greatly impressed with the man. They became good friends, and when asked by Benjamin, he even gave his blessings to his grandson. Needless to say, the lodge was an excellent way for Benjamin to meet great men who had influence in the highest levels of society.

But Benjamin was also a ladies’ man. His wife had died in 1774, and in spite of his age, while in France, he was treated like a rock star, and he couldn’t help being a flirt. One lady whom he considered his equal was Mme Helvetius, and he may have even proposed to her. One thing for sure, he wanted to share her bed. He called her Notre Dame, and in one of his notes to her, he writes: ‘if Notre Dame is pleased to spend her days with Franklin, he would be just as pleased to spend his nights with her; and since he has already given her so many of his days, although he has so few left to give, she seems ungrateful in never giving him one of her nights’.

Franklin frequented the upper classes and the aristocrats, for they were the ones he had to convince in order for them to convince the king. The salon of Mme Helvetius and the Lodge of the Nine Sisters served his purpose well, but that was not his only activity. He was in constant communication with Robert Morris in Philadelphia, because, as arranged by Mayer, he depended on his financial help. There was a four-way communication between Mayer, David Schiff, Robert Morris and Benjamin because arms, clothing and war material shipments to America had to be organized as well. Because Benjamin had so many important contacts in Paris, and because he was such a hit with the French, he had been able to convince Minister Vergennes to replace the outdated arms in France’s numerous arsenals and send them to America. The arms then found their way to Rotterdam from where David shipped them to America through St. Eustatius. So, from 1776 to 1778 ever more arms and powder made their way to America.

Back in NYC, in 1776, after being arrested by the English for helping the Sons of Freedom, Haym had started interpreting for the Hessians. That’s when he befriended Colonel Johann Rall, a Hessian, and by pulling all the right strings, he managed to have him command the Hessian troops sent to hold the Trenton position opposite Philadelphia. Haym had explained to Rall that Philadelphia was a community made up of Germans who had come from the Frankfurt region just like them, and if they were to defect, not only would they feel at home but they would be given large parcels of land and enough money to start a new life. The Trenton Hessian soldier pickup was a total success, more than 900 Hessians crossed the Delaware with Washington’s help. More importantly, it was construed as a major American victory over the English, and it gave quite a boost to American morale.

Later, on July 12th, 1778, when the French Ambassador sailed up the Delaware, Mayer had been forewarned and had sent word to Haym who was in NYC. Haym escaped without too much difficulty, and though the English sentenced him to death in absentia, he arrived safely in Philadelphia ahead of the French Ambassador.

After settling in the counting house run by Bernard Gratz, Washington backed Haym’s candidacy as broker of the French aid package. But the French Ambassador was already looking for Haym, thanks to the recommendations of Benjamin in Paris. That’s how, with Benjamin’s help and the support of influential members of the Continental Congress, Haym was chosen by the anti-Semite French to be their treasurer. Haym was not only named broker to the French Consul, but also Treasurer of the French Army, and Fiscal Agent of the French Minister to the United States. Most important of all, some 500 tons of gold were added to the bullion already in his Philadelphia vault.

However, working within Congress was another matter. Both Haym and Robert worked for Mayer, but Robert Morris was the one chosen to become a member of Congress because he was a goy. Not only that, but he was, as far as the colonials were concerned, a rich merchant who had supplied them arms and ammunitions since 1774. David had sent on the arm shipments to America as directed by Mayer, but it was Morris’ arms importing company that had fronted the operations. Congress and the militias had gotten arms and powder, and they had been too grateful to ask questions. Mayer had total confidence in Robert Morris, and since Americans, like Europeans, were not yet ready to accept Jews in the inner sanctum of political leadership, Robert worked inside Congress, and Haym outside. Mayer was quite satisfied with this arrangement.

17-BIG DECISION

KNOW HOW WE GOT HERE, AND KNOW INNER PEACE

Upon receiving Mayer’s letter, Haym left Ephraim Hart, his business associate and friend, in charge of the counting house in New York, and went to Williamsburg by way of Philadelphia. He planned to sail out of Williamsburg aboard a Robert Morris ship transporting tobacco intended for David in Rotterdam. Because going from New York City to Williamsburg by land would take about the same time as going by sea, he decided to first go to Philadelphia and visit with Robert Morris and Bernard Gratz. And since Philadelphia was a mere two day road trip to the mouth of the Elk River on the Chesapeake, he didn’t have to rush. He could still have a long visit with Michael Gratz in Williamsburg before sailing to Europe.

In Philadelphia, Bernard and Robert told him what he already knew regarding the political climate in Pennsylvania, and he was happy to hear there was ever more grumbling in Virginia. This showed the Sons of Liberty in Boston weren’t alone in wanting the British Government out of their lives. Haym had found that even though they were poorly financed and had few weapons, the Sons of Liberty were a determined lot and a thorn in the New York Governor’s backside. He was convinced they were a viable group, one determined enough to fight the English in a systematic way if given the chance. The anti-English feelings were definitely spreading throughout the colonies, and Mayer would be happy to hear that.

When he reached Williamsburg, Michael Gratz was waiting for him. Haym had written ahead asking him if he knew members of the House of Burgesses that would be of interest to Mayer. Michael couldn’t wait to tell him that the political climate in Virginia was deteriorating at a rapid rate, and that two men stood out in their opposition to the Mother Country. When, in 1770, the British shot into a mob of colonials, in what became known as the Boston Massacre, the southerners began to oppose the ongoing ‘intolerable acts’ of the English Parliament just like the people in the colonies up north did. Here in Virginia, Patrick Henry and George Washington were trying to make a name for themselves by pushing to have a resolution drawn up condemning England’s treatment of the colonials and demanding parliamentary representation.

Patrick Henry was a lawyer, a great orator and a member of the Burgesses, and he was down on his luck. His small plantation was no longer producing, and his wife was very ill. Because he was a frustrated man, a little too hot under the collar, Michael suggested George Washington might be a better man for what Haym and his sponsor had in mind. Haym answered he didn’t know precisely what Mayer in Frankfurt wanted, but agreed it was a good idea to at least meet this fellow.

Washington was a tall imposing dour figure who worked very hard at giving the impression of a strong silent type, and the fact he was an important landowner gave credence to the image he tried to project. After her husband’s death in 1752 followed by that of their only son in 1754, Anne Fairfax, his brother’s widow, had remarried, and George Washington had become custodian of Mt. Vernon. When George married Martha Custis in 1758, he received a dowry of 6000 acres of prime land that happened to be adjacent to Mt. Vernon. In 1761, when Anne Fairfax died George inherited Mt. Vernon. Although the buildings on the estate were in a rather poor state of repair and the farm revenue modest, the man did his best to lead the life of an English country squire.

There was a lot of talk about this gentleman, and it wasn’t all flattering. He had married rather late in life, had no children, and people wondered about his motives for marrying, and his exaggerated military career claims during the French Indian War. As Commander of the Virginia Militia, he had participated in two of what could be called skirmishes during that war. In the one, he was said to have killed a French officer needlessly, and in the other, his militia unit had been captured, and he had been taken prisoner. His inexperience and impetuosity were blamed for those lackluster military achievements when later, having tried to get a commission in the British Army, he was turned down. No doubt feeling slighted, he got married to a rich widow, settled down at Mt. Vernon, and went into politics.

When Haym and Michael arrived at Mt. Vernon, Haym took one look at the imposing figure welcoming them, and he just knew Mayer would be interested in this fellow. Once done with the usual formalities and seated in the living room, Washington, in wanting to impress this very rich merchant from New York, was quick to tell Haym he had personally seen to the decoration and the furnishings of the mansion, and Mary, his wife, agreed. She was a charming no-nonsense kind of lady, and Haym knew that the shades of pink used on the walls, the rococo draperies, the overflowing array of glitzy furniture and the paintings representing biblical scenes of nude men wasn’t her doing.

They talked about the House of Burgesses and the state of affairs in Virginia, and before leaving, Haym told Washington that his sponsor in Germany wanted to help the colonials gain their independence, and asked him if he would be interested in meeting with him in order to discuss the matter. Washington, sensing a great opportunity, agreed while making sure not to show too much eagerness.

Michael and Haym took their leave, and as their carriage headed back to Williamsburg, Michael couldn’t wait to tell Haym about the rumors that were circulating in town. Apparently, Mary and her husband slept in separate bedrooms on different floors while George and the estate’s handsome overseer who lived with them had adjoining bedrooms. They both agreed he was probably leading a secret life that could very well explain his choice of colors and furnishings, and they both roared with laughter.

Haym duly left for Rotterdam, and since American captains now made a point of taking advantage of the Gulf Stream, he arrived in under two months. He spent two days with David and his wife, and thoroughly enjoyed their warm hospitality. After promising to stop by on his way back to America, he took a stage coach to Frankfurt, and five days later, he was at Mayer’s house in the Judengasse ghetto.

Both Gretel and Mayer had sworn on their wedding day they would never leave Judengasse. They were a happy couple, madly in love, and they both knew what was important in life. It was hard for Haym to determine whether this tall gentle man was happy because he was the richest men in the world or because he lived in the ghetto with his wife Gretel who was about to give him a second child. Regardless, the house was in a festive mood, and exquisite Burgundy wine was flowing.

They spent the next few days exchanging information, and when the subject of Washington came up, they had a good laugh. However, it was a serious matter, and they both agreed that since Washington had the aura of a leader and military experience of sorts, and since he was apparently a gentle megalomaniac living a secret life, he would be perfect for the job. Given the right financial incentives, he would do whatever was asked of him. It was one thing to give a man power, but it was best to keep a Damocles’ sword dangling over his head.

After hearing what Haym had to say about the Sons of Liberty, Mayer knew he had the leader and the movement, and above all, he knew it wouldn’t cost very much to get them operational. The first thing he would do is make sure his New York counting house had all the necessary specie. With a fortune that he no longer could count multiplying at a rapid rate, Mayer could easily get the colonials talking with one voice by having Haym finance a meeting of the 13 Colonies. Haym was to pay for all travelling expenses incurred by the chosen representatives, and compensate them handsomely for their time. He was to finance their political undertakings, and provide a meeting hall and adequate housing for them while in Philadelphia. From what Mayer knew, Philadelphia was the perfect city for the meeting, and Haym agreed. If the meeting went as expected, the delegates would probably want to recruit a military leader from the south, and Washington’s candidacy would be encouraged. He estimated a man like Washington would cost around £2000 the first year and £1000 thereafter, and the politicians around £300 each per year, an amount equivalent to six times the salary of a skilled tradesman. £100,000 would be more than enough to pay for the politicians’ salaries and expenses, and to house them. Getting Washington looking like a genuine military leader and supplying his army as well as the local militias would not be a big financial drain either.

Philadelphia was the largest city in the colonies and stood midway between New England and the South. Since the idea was to bring the southern gentry and the northern merchants together, it was ideal middle ground. The fact that Philadelphia wasn’t easily accessible by sea, especially for the big English naval vessels, and had an important non-English and non-royalist population was also a consideration. And because Philadelphia was close to New York City, it would make it easier for Haym to control things.

Eager to supply more arms and powder to the American militias, Mayer told Haym he had looked for a way to circumvent the English authorities. David in Rotterdam had suggested that the best way to do that was through the Dutch duty free port of St. Eustatius in the Caribbean. The Commander of the island, Abraham Heyliger, happened to be an avowed American patriot sympathizer. After confirming that information with Isaac Moses in NYC, a merchant familiar with the Caribbean, Mayer had given David the go-ahead to buy arms.

Julien Ouvrard, the French arms merchant working for David, agreed that sending French muskets and powder to America via St. Eustatius was a good idea and had volunteered to do whatever he could. St. Eustatius was nothing more than a big rock in the Caribbean on which were built hundreds of warehouses full of American, West Indian and European goods. Each year, thousands of captains stopped at this duty free Caribbean port in order to exchange merchandise.

That Caribbean free port was extremely successful because merchants from Europe and the New World could buy and sell goods at established and just exchange rates. The Bank of England’s exchange rate between the Spanish dollar and the Pound was unwarranted and to be avoided at all cost. Based on their silver content, the two currencies should have been at par, and that’s what Mayer’s counting houses offered. Necessarily, merchants who already did everything in their power to circumvent Britain as a trading partner and buy manufactured goods from other European countries out of St. Eustatius would be quite motivated to use Mayer’s letters of exchange.

For Isaac Hayes and Robert Morris who already shipped rum, tobacco and indigo, and manufactured goods presold by David in Rotterdam and Haym in NYC, shipping arms through St. Eustatius would be a welcome proposition. As for Mayer the clandestine shipments of arms and military supplies delivered to the various colonial militias on credit would become part of the nation’s debt after the war and would be useful in the creation of a national bank.

The American captains were experts at delivering goods undetected by the British authorities because they knew the coast so well. This long, rugged coast had many inlets, and it was impossible for the British to stop the contraband and the arms shipments. Ships from St. Eustatius dropping off cargo in some cove in Chesapeake Bay, up the Delaware, in Long Island Sound, or some small bay along the New England shoreline were almost never intercepted.

Before Haym left for America, Mayer asked him to go by way of St. Eustatius and make arrangements with Heyliger. From there he was to stop in all the major American ports in order to recruit goy political leaders who would in turn select representatives to represent the individual colonies at a meeting in Philadelphia planned for September. He was to explain that he was very interested in their march to independence, and financing a meeting in Philadelphia was the least a rich merchant like himself could do. He was to be overly generous in all his endeavors. The specie in Haym’s vault in NYC was more than adequate to finance a meeting in Philadelphia and anything else that needed doing.

Although Haym was sad to leave Gretel and Mayer, he was anxious to return to America and get the meeting organized. It was time for new experiences and adventures. Travelling to Rotterdam aboard a barge transporting wine, and then sailing to the Caribbean were welcome opportunities.